Free Cloud Data Logging Courtesy Of Google

Pushing all of your data into “The Cloud” sounds great, until you remember that what you’re really talking about is somebody else’s computer. That means all your hard-crunched data could potentially become inaccessible should the company running the service go under or change the rules on you; a situation we’ve unfortunately already seen play out.

Which makes this project from [Zoltan Doczi] and [Róbert Szalóki] so appealing. Not only does it show how easy it can be to shuffle your data through the tubes and off to that big data center in the sky, but they send it to one of the few companies that seem incapable of losing market share: Google. But fear not, this isn’t some experimental sensor API that the Big G will decide it’s shutting down next Tuesday in favor of a nearly identical service with a different name. All your precious bits and bytes will be stored in one of Google’s flagship products: Sheets.

It turns out that Sheets has a “Deploy as Web App” function that will spit out a custom URL that clients can use to access the spreadsheet data. This project shows how that feature can be exploited with the help of a little Python code to push data directly into Google’s servers from the Raspberry Pi or other suitably diminutive computer.

Here they’re using a temperature and humidity sensor, but the only limitation is your imagination. As an added bonus, the chart and graph functions in Sheets can be used to make high-quality visualizations of your recorded data at no extra charge.

You might be wondering what would happen if a bunch of hackers all over the world started pushing data into Sheets every few seconds. Honestly, we don’t know. The last time we showed how you could interact with one of their services in unexpected ways, Google announced they were retiring it on the very same day. It was probably just a coincidence, but to be on the safe side, we’d recommend keeping the update frequency fairly low.

Back in 2012, before the service was even known as Google Sheets, we covered how you could do something very similar by manually assembling HTTP packets containing your data. We’d say this validates the concept for long-term data storage, but clearly the methodology has changed considerably in the intervening years. Somebody else’s computer, indeed.

Modular Solar-Powered IoT Sensors

Bringing a product to market is not easy, if it were everyone would be doing it, and succeeding. The team at Pycno is in the process of launching their second product, a modular solar powered IoT unit called Pulse. It’s always interesting to get an inside look when a company is so open during the development process, and see how they deal with challenges.

Pycno’s first product was a solar powered sensor suite for crops. This time round they are keeping the solar part, but creating a modular system that can accept wired or wireless connections (2G/3G/4G, WiFi, LoRa, GPS and Bluetooth 5) or modules that slide into the bottom of the unit. They plan to open source the module design to allow other to design custom modules, which is a smart move since interoperability can be a big driving factor behind adoption. The ease of plugging in sensors is a very handy feature, since most non-Hackaday users would probably prefer to not open up expensive units to swap out sensors. The custom solar panel itself is pretty interesting, since it features an integrated OLED display. It consists of a PCB with the cutout for the display, with solar cells soldered on before the whole is laminated to protect the cells.

Making a product so completely modular also has some pitfalls, since it can be really tricky to market something able to do anything for anybody. However, we wish them the best of luck with their Kickstarter (video after the break) and look forward to seeing how the ecosystem develops.

When a large community develops around a modular ecosystem, it can truly grow beyond the originator’s wildest dreams. Just look at Arduino and Raspberry Pi. We’re also currently running a contest involving boards for the Feather form factor if you want to get in on the act. Continue reading “Modular Solar-Powered IoT Sensors”

The Thermochromic Display You Didn’t Know You Needed

We love unique ways of displaying data here at Hackaday, and this ingenious thermochromic display created by [Moritz v. Sivers] more than fits the bill. Using sheets of color changing liquid crystals and careful temperature control of the plates they’re mounted on, he’s built a giant seven-segment display that can colorfully (albeit somewhat slowly) show the current temperature and humidity.

The sheets of temperature sensitive liquid crystals are a bit like flattened out Mood Rings; they starts out black, but as heat is applied, their color cycles through vibrant reds, greens, and blues. The sheets are perhaps best known as the sort of vaguely scientific toys you might see in a museum gift shop, but here [Moritz] has put their unique properties to practical use.

To achieve the effect, he first cut each segment out of copper. The crystal sheets were applied to the segments, thanks to their handy self-stick backing, and the excess was carefully trimmed away. Each segment was then mounted to a TES1-12704 Peltier module by way of thermally conductive epoxy. TB6612FNG motor controllers and a bevy of Arduino Nano’s are used to control the Peltier modules, raising and lowering their temperature as necessary to get the desired effect.

You can see the final result in the video after the break. It’s easily one of the most attractive variations on the classic seven-segment display we’ve ever seen. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it could pass for an art installation. The idea of a device that shows the current temperature by heating itself up certainly has a thoughtful aspect to it.

This actually isn’t the first display we’ve seen that utilized this concept, though it’s by far the largest. Back in 2014 we featured a small flexible display that used nichrome wires to “print” digits on a sheet of liquid crystals.

Continue reading “The Thermochromic Display You Didn’t Know You Needed”

Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane

People love to talk about the weather. It’s the perfect small talk, whether you’re trying to start a conversation or keep one going by avoiding an awkward silence. In the same fashion, weather stations are an ideal starting point for any sort of sensor-related project ideas. You get to familiarizing yourself with communication buses, ADCs, general data acquisition, and you learn a lot in figuring out how to visualize it all.

What if your weather station didn’t visualize anything? [OttoNL] is answering that question with a MIDI-generating Weather Station that uses the mood of the music to convey the condition of the elements outside.

Using an ESP8266 programmed via the Arduino IDE, [OttoNL] hooked up a light dependent resistor, a rain sensor, and the all-round workhorse BME280 for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity to it. Reading the sensors, the ESP will generate MIDI notes that are sent to a connected synthesizer, with each sensor influencing a different aspect of the generated MIDI signals. A sadder, slow tune will play during rain and a fast upbeat one during sunshine. While it doesn’t use the ESP’s WiFi functionality at all at this point, a future version could easily retrieve some weather forecast data from the internet and add it into the mix as well.

Connect this to your alarm clock, and you can start your day off in the appropriate mood. You can even customize your breakfast toast to really immerse your morning routine in abstract weather cues.

Continue reading “Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane”

Friday Hack Chat: Environmental Sensors

When it comes to IoT and robotics, the name of the game is sensors. These aren’t just IMUs and the stuff that makes robots move — we’re talking about environmental sensors here. Everything from sensors that measure temperature, air quality, humidity, chemical sensors, and radiation sensors are on the table here. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking all about environmental sensors with a hardware designer who has put them to the test.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is Radu Motisan. He was a finalist in the 2014 Hackaday Prize with the uRad Monitor, a self-contained radiation monitoring network that sends radiation measurements out to a central server, that can be viewed by the entire world. The goal of this project is to create a worldwide network of radiation monitoring devices, and we’re going to say Radu has succeeded. There are hundreds of these uRad Monitors in over forty countries, and all of them are churning out data about the radiation environment in their neck of the woods.

By training, Radu is a software engineer with a masters in science. In his spare time, Radu plays around with chemistry, physics, and electronics. It’s this background that led Radu to create one of the most amazing Hackaday Prize projects ever.

We’ll kick off with a discussion of Radu’s uRad Monitor, and that means we’ll be covering:

  • Radiation Detection, why is it important, and what does it mean?
  • How do you detect radiation?
  • The differences between Geiger-Mueller tubes and scintillators

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Environmental Sensor Hack Chat Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, September 7th. Need a countdown timer? We should look into hosting these countdown timers on hackaday.io, actually.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Earth Day: Environmental Sensors

Before you attempt to solve a problem, you must first study the problem. If there’s a problem with the environment, you must therefore study the environment at a scale never seen before. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, there are a lot of projects that aim to do just that. Here are a few of them:

[Pure Engineering]’s C12666 Micro Spectrometer has applications ranging from detecting if fruit is ripe, telling you to put sunscreen on, to detecting oil spills. Like the title says, it’s based on the Hamamatsu C12666MA spectrometer, a very tiny MEMS spectrometer that can sort light by wavelength from 340 to 780nm.

The project is to build a proper breakout board for this spectrometer. The best technologies are enabling technologies, and we can’t wait to see all the cool stuff that’s made with this sensor.

[radu.motisan]’s portable environmental monitor isn’t just one sensor, but an entire suite of them. The design of the project includes toxic and flammable gas sensors, radiation detectors, dust sensors, and radiation detectors packaged together in a neat, convenient package.

[radu] has already seen some success with environmental sensors and The Hackaday Prize; last year, his entry, the uRADMonitor placed in the top fifty for creating a global network of radiation sensors.